Southern California's housing market settled into a typical seasonal pattern in September with sales falling from August, but prices continued making big gains from a year earlier, a market tracker said Wednesday.
Last month the median home price across the six-county region increased 21.3 percent to $382,000 from $315,000 a year earlier, said La Jolla-based DataQuick. The median price did slip $3,000 from August, the first month-to-month decline since February. It was basically flat all summer.
However, the median has increased year-over-year for 18 consecutive months, DataQuick said. The increases have been in the 20 percent range for the last nine months as distressed properties have been weaned from the market and sales of more expensive homes increased.
Last month sales increased 7 percent to 19,112 properties from 17,859 a year earlier. Sales fell 17.1 percent from 23,057 in August as the summer buying season wound down.
"We've seen a fairly normal downshifting in the housing market this fall. Couple that with the rise in inventory, higher mortgage rates and the ongoing gradual drop in purchases by investors and cash buyers, and it's no wonder prices have leveled off in recent months," DataQuick president John Walsh said in a statement.
What is not yet clear is how the government shutdown, which ended on Wednesday, impacted the housing market. That won't be known for several months, Walsh said.
In San Bernardino County during September the median price jumped 32.4 percent to $225,000 from $170,000 a year earlier, the biggest increase in the region. Sales increased 15.4 percent, also the region's biggest gain, to 2,358 properties from 2,044 a year earlier.
Los Angeles County's median price increased 25 percent to $425,000 from $340,000 a year earlier and sales increased 5 percent to 6,494 from 6,188 in September 2012.
DataQuick tracks sales and prices of new and previously owned houses and condominiums.
During September the number of homes that sold from $300,000 through $800,000 -- a range that would include many move-up buyers -- increased 25.5 percent year-over-year. The number that sold for $500,000 or more jumped 42.1 percent from one year earlier, while $800,000-plus sales rose 43.4 percent.
Transactions involving foreclosed homes and short sales also continued trending down.
In September sales of homes foreclosed on in the prior 12 months accounted for 6.3 percent of the Southland's resale market, down from 6.9 percent in August and down from 16.6 percent a year earlier.
Last month's foreclosure resale rate was the lowest since 5.5 percent in May 2007. During the downturn foreclosure resales hit a high of 56.7 percent in February 2009.
Short sales, deals in which the sale price fell short of what was owed on the property, accounted for a 13.1 percent share, down from 13.3 percent the month before and down from 28 percent a year earlier.
September's level was the lowest since a 12.9 percent share in May 2009.
Absentee buyers, mostly investors and some second-home purchasers, bought 26.3 percent of the Southland homes sold last month. That was down from 26.7 percent the month before and down from 27.7 percent a year earlier.
DataQuick analyst Andrew LePage said that the market is downshifting a bit.
"I've heard of fewer multiple offers and properties are staying on the market a little bit longer," he said. "And there are some drops in asking prices. Some sellers are really trying to reach for the stars based on the appreciation we were seeing during the summer. The market has cooled somewhat from then."